“How can people say they don’t eat eggplant when God loves the color and the French love the name? I don’t understand.”
Jeff Smith (The Frugal Gourmet)
First the flower, then the emerging fruit and finally the fully grown black beauty.
Eggplants making their way in the garden.
And yes, eggplant, as it is commonly referred to here in the US, is indeed a fruit and not a vegetable–matter of fact, it’s actually considered a berry.
Another little known fact is that eggplants contain nicotine, but the levels are so negligible that those smokers out there don’t need to get all excited.
Because I am Sophia Loren’s love child—oh you didn’t know that?
Don’t worry, Sophia Loren doesn’t know it either, but don’t tell my college roommates that.
They were convinced. Has to do with all that adoption business and a love of all things Italian but I digress as usual.
I thought at an early age I needed to add the eggplant to my palate.
And those giant purple things found in the grocery store can be a bit intimidating to the home cook. I mean really, what does one do with a giant purple globule of a veg. . . eh, fruit?!
Yes there is the standard quasi Italian eggplant parmesan, and the French melange of ratatouille, but I live in the South remember—we fry everything, including eggplant.
I wonder why that is.
I’ve never really stopped long enough to research why we southerners find it important to fry almost anything and everything. Didn’t I once read that Elvis’s favorite food was to fry a bacon, peanut-butter and banana sandwich? And now there’s tell of fried oreo cookies, and fried ice-cream and fried cheesecake—but the standard bearers are of course fried chicken, fired okra and fried green tomatoes. . .well, there’s just not much anything better than any of those nor anything much more Southern—except for maybe fried eggplant.
Here’s a couple of shots from a previous frying episode
Here’s a quick tutorial to serving fried eggplant.
I always peel my eggplant—the skin can often taste bitter and does not break down well when fired, making for unpleasant eating. I find that store bought eggplant’s skin is more bitter and tough than my garden fresh variety, but it just makes for easier eating to peel it away.
Slice the eggplant into thin rounds.
The pictures here are of the large more global shaped eggplant verses the more sledder Japanese eggplant pictured earlier in the post–either one works splendidly.
There are even white eggplants–which seem to fit the whole name thing much better than the purple specimens.
I grew white ones once.
My husband likened them to looking more like dinosaur eggs than a delectable vegetable / fruit and was a bit put off—hence my now standard bearer purple variety.
First, I soak my eggplant in buttermilk.
Often folks will salt the rounds, layering them in a colander to drain for about 30 minutes, as this helps to remove the bitterness in the seeds (I wonder if that’s where the nicotine is hiding, hence the bitterness. . .)
I find that the soak in buttermilk is sufficient to render excess moisture and any lurking bitterness–soak about 30 minutes.
Prepare a plate or shallow pan with a mix of cornmeal, a little flour, salt, pepper, and any other spice addition that may float your boat–making for a nice dredging mixture.
Prepare a skillet with about a 1/2 inch of canola oil and heat over med heat until a pinch of flour dropped in sizzles or for the more exact among us—between 275 and 325 degrees.
Remove a round at a time out of its soaking liquid, allowing it to drip free of excess buttermilk— then dredge the eggplant round in the cornmeal mix, coating throughly on both sides.
Place coated rounds in the pan making certain not to overcrowd or overlap.
Fry on one side till a nice golden brown then flip to finish the other side.
Remove the cooked rounds to a wire rack to drain.
Fry remaining rounds then lightly salt, dust with grated parmesan cheese and serve immediately. You may serve with a dipping sauce of choice—a spicy remoulade, or fresh tomato salsa is nice, but my husband prefers a horseradish sauce for a little kick.